By Holly O’Dell
Outdoor fabrics have transformed into sophisticated products that can better resist soil, oil and chemicals. “Over the years, fabric technology has improved, whether that be in the construction of the fabric or perhaps some type of surface treatment oriented toward enhancing the life of the fabric and cleanability,” says Drew Nelson, product manager, awning products, Tri Vantage®.
However, improvements to fabrics have not eliminated the need for a proper care regimen; in fact, cleaning supply companies have been able to use the same chemical formulations on outdoor fabrics for years. One shift these businesses have noticed, however, is increased interest from customers for green cleaning products. Iosso® Products, for instance, has offered its biodegradable, bleach-free Mold & Mildew Stain Remover for many years. “Customers want to know if our products will be friendly to the environment and the fabric,” says Iosso vice president Marianne Iosso. “More and more people are asking, ‘Is it safe for the fish? Is it safe for my pets?’ The answer is yes—our stain remover will not harm whatever it comes in contact with, as bleach would do.”
Awning Cleaning Industries in New Haven, Conn., has also pursued eco-friendly products. “To meet the way the world perceives us and how friendly we are toward the earth, we have moved much more toward green than we ever were before,” says owner Scott Massey. “We’ve actually produced a cleaner that can run down the drains with no problems. It even works better than some of our non-green products.”
Regardless of fabric or cleaning product enhancements, the ultimate responsibility for quality care of outdoor fabrics lies with the end consumers—and expands the need for manufacturers and fabricators to put them in contact with the appropriate information. “I think manufacturers continually improve the fabrics to become more weather- and fade-resistant,” Iosso says. “They can improve the fabrics all they want, but if customers in the end don’t take care of it the proper way, it’s fighting a losing battle. They won’t get the ultimate longevity out of the product.”